Friday, 10th. August, 2018:
Finding opportunities to climb the Scottish hills is difficult when you live in Kent but my brother's father-in-law spent this summer on Lindisfarne (Holy Island) in Northumberland so a family reunion got me more than half way there with Tommy (my son) and Mary (my daughter) for company. After a crowded night in the local pub with all the cousins and camping in my father-in-law's garden, we were only a little jaded the next morning and managed to beat the tide over the causeway to the mainland before enduring a slow journey to Edinburgh and then to Crianlarich. We'd made our plans long since and, leaving the car outside Ben More Lodge, we got a lift up to Achallader and set off into the hills, heading for Gorton; the aim was - despite a terrible forecast for the weekend - to walk back to Crianlarich over the tops. After a couple of heavy showers on the walk in, the bothy was very welcome - very tidy, comfy chairs, wood panelling and, even though we didn't have any fuel, it had a fireplace that clearly worked. Thanks to the MBA! The next morning, we left the place as tidy as we had found it and were away soon after 8.00.am., heading up the long, grassy slopes of Beinn a'Chreachain in improving weather. Very annoyingly, though, problems struck almost straight away as Mary's ancient boots started to disintegrate, the soles beginning to break away and flap off at the heels. Maybe she shouldn't have trusted cheap fabric boots bought about a dozen years ago for a D of E trip for a fairly heavy duty trip in Scotland - but, whatever the circumstances, it wasn't an especially good advertisement for High Tech! Luckily, though, both Tommy and I had some spare boot laces in our sacks and we managed to bind the soles to the uppers temporarily - but we were forced to move much more slowly and it was clear that we'd have to modify our plans as three consecutive days out in the hills with disintegrating boots wasn't going to work. That said, things got better as we gained height; the weather continued to improve and the ridge leading up to the summit of Beinn a'Chreachain was terrific with views both over Rannoch Moor to the Blackmount and over to the head of Loch Lyon, where we had been hoping to explore. The summit itself made for an airy perch and, despite the problem with the boots, morale was high! After that, the ridge southwards was a delight and although Mary had to tread gently, we ticked off Beinn Achaladair (the most enjoyable hill of the day with its high, long southern ridge) and Beinn an Dotaidh in good order; it was great to be up high on a fresh, sunny day. Sadly, though, the clag blew in a little for our final climb up Beinn Dorain and, after an interesting approach to the summit via a traverse on its western side, we failed to get a view from the top. Nevertheless, it had been a good day wandering along the ridges, albeit a slow one because of Mary's boots. It was now, though, time to make a decision. We clearly couldn't descend to the head of Loch Lyon and then head further south as planned but, equally, the weather was still pretty good and we were equipped to camp high. The solution was to camp in the upper reaches of Coire a'Ghabhalaich to the north of Beinn Dorain and then, the next day, head to Tyndrum and the Green Welly Emporium (where we'd be able to get hold of new boots) and continue south, albeit on a less adventurous route. We were rewarded with an enjoyable high camp. Postscript:
We had expected bad weather to blow in as forecast but we woke to some sunshine and no rain - making the decision to abandon our plans even harder. Nevertheless, Mary couldn't go far with the boots that she had so we headed back over the bealach between Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Dorain to hit the West Highland Way at Bridge of Orchy and then head to Tyndrum for a pair of new boots (reduced to £100!!) and a lunchtime beer. There was a temptation to waste the rest of the day in Tyndrum but, in contrast to the forecast, the weather was still holding up so we headed further south and peeled off back into the hills up Gleann a'Chlachain to camp high under the western slopes of Ben Challum. We might still be able to take in a few hills on our way to Crianlarich tomorrow.
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